Contributed by Catalyst Miami CEO Daniella Levine by way of the Huffington Post
The Super Committee "fails." Occupiers are evicted. Cool weather
comes to Miami. How do these relate if at all? I try to see the large
canvas. I imagine the pieces as on a chessboard, trumping and trumped.
Kinged and queened. So what is the temperature this Miami Winter? Warmer
for sure, but still delightful enough to turn off the AC and open the
windows wide to the remaining birdsong, garden aroma and water splash.
In my Miami lifetime (now more than half of my 56 years) I have
focused on building the kind of community that reflects compassion
across numerous divides: race, ethnicity, income, education, ability. I
have discovered ways to advocate "appreciatively," leaving room for
redemption of all parties. I have promoted connecting through the heart
and then applying fact and reason to divisive and perplexing complex
community concerns. I have sought common ground by going to higher
ground (a favorite Rev. Jim Wallis quote).
Yet the lack of public concern about inequities in our community has
confounded me. I appreciated that we were a resilient and
entrepreneurial place; people come to Miami or stay here largely because
they have hope for a brighter future. Miamians also reflect in so many
ways the rugged individualism for which Americans are famous, although
over half of them are not U.S. born. What is this anomaly all about and
can we tweak public attitude, trick our collective psyche, into seeing
ourselves as part of a vibrant, multi-colored quilt? Can we create a
"communitarian" spirit in this maximally diverse culture that recognizes
our mutual interdependence? Can we coin a new-world dynamic definition
of "thrive," in which investment in all our people will make us the
epicenter of the multicultural world?
The appeal of the 99% opens the door if we can walk through it. The
message resonates as people no longer see their struggles as unique or
their failure to achieve the American dream as personal failure. Rugged
individualism has not disappeared, for personal responsibility is deeply
engrained in the American landscape. Yet it is being tempered with a
new appreciation for context, for systemic and structural challenges
that limit upward mobility and perpetuate class divides that are finally
coming into collective view. The new poor, our struggling middle class,
are now understanding that the rules have not been made for their
benefit, and that those who have concentrated power have increasingly
concentrated their wealth as well, creating rules that perpetuate their
Where will this new consciousness take us? As the encampments are
closed down, can we occupy our collective consciousness? While the Super
Committee found no consensus and Congress has achieved stalemate for
too long, can our local policymakers get to higher ground? Can we bring a
heightened sense of history and politics and power dynamics to the 99%?
Can we restore a confidence in the resilience of our democratic
structures in time to motivate people to vote in the 2012 elections?
I will be designing a program this Miami Winter to bring context,
stimulate hope, and restore a sense of possibilities for our system of
government. And it will take hold by the time the heat returns for our
Democracy Summer. Stay tuned.